Jessica’s Story

" When mum got drunk, Jessica, aged three, would hide for hours in a darkened stairwell to try and avoid being beaten. "

Children who have been abused are often highly alert and sensitive to changes in their environment. They’re constantly on the look out for cues which might indicate a situation about to turn dangerous.

Reading the danger signs

Jessica is four years old. She used to live in flat with her mum but she was removed when she was three. Her mum loves her, but when she got drunk – which was often – her mum would get angry and lash out at Jessica, beating and scratching her.

Even as a toddler Jessica learnt to read the danger signs; her mum would always drink from the same glass and smoke a lot, and then she would start to talk to herself, then yell. That’s when Jessica would know she had to go to her safe place.

Crying in the dark

Jessica would hide in the concrete stairwell of their building, and Mum usually didn’t chase after her. Jessica would stay there for hours, sitting on the cold concrete with nothing to do except cry. When she thought her mum was asleep, she would sneak back inside the flat, if she hadn’t been locked out.

To make matters worse, her mum made Jessica feel that the abuse was her fault.

" Emotional abuse and neglect; when the child is repeatedly made to feel frightened, ashamed, upset, alone or worthless, can be even more damaging long term than physical abuse. "

Although she is now living in a safe environment with a foster family Jessica remained constantly anxious and alert, finding it hard to relax in normal situations.

Constantly Anxious

How we helped

Jessica was four years old when she came to Act for Kids. She found it hard to trust adults, and was constantly on edge in their company. Our therapists have slowly shown her how to feel calm and regulate her anxiety, so that she is longer on high alert. Jessica now looks forward to seeing her therapist each week. She is starting to understand that it is not her fault her mum abused her. She now knows she deserves to be loved and cared for, just for being her.

The bigger problem


Source: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, Child protection Australia 2016-17

Abuse and neglect

" Many children experience multiple forms of abuse and neglect. "

The majority (48%) experience emotional abuse, followed by neglect (24%). 16% experience physical abuse and 12% experience sexual abuse.

Abuse and neglect can impact a child’s brain development, how they feel and think about themselves, how successful they are at school, even their physical development and skills. In the long term this can lead to drug and alcohol abuse, mental illness, difficulty developing and maintaining good relationships, unemployment and all sorts of social disadvantage.

Early intervention makes a world of difference

With early and appropriate support, children and young people can overcome their experiences, and go on to have happy and productive lives.


Our team of experts works with kids like Jessica every day. We have waiting lists for our critical services; thanks to your support we can help many more.

How you can help

We can’t do this important work without your help. We rely heavily on donations to support our intensive therapy programs for abused and neglected kids, and early support for families at risk. Your donation will help us keep our doors open and expand our services.

Donate Now

Donations over $2 are tax deductible. Every donation, big or small, combines to make a real difference.


Donate Monthly

Your generosity means we can continue providing our integrated therapy programs for abused and neglected kids, and support services for families.

Becoming a Kids’ Crusader and donating monthly is the best way to help us help kids and families – it means we can direct funds where they’re needed most and make the biggest impact over time.

Workplace giving

As an employee, workplace giving enables you to make a regular donation to Act for Kids through your payroll, directly from your pre-tax pay. This means that you receive an immediate tax saving as it reduces your taxable income.

Donate in your will

By leaving a bequest to Act for Kids, you can make a positive difference to the lives of children and young people who have experienced abuse and neglect. By including Act for Kids in your will, you offer a gift of hope to future generations and you will help us give abused and neglected children the chance to lead safe, happy and fulfilling lives.

Dr Neil Carrington

Act for Kids

Read next

Luke, aged four, was found alone in an empty room at home. He had been horrendously neglected and could barely speak.

More stories

Aiden’s Story

Five-year-old Maddie was physically, emotionally and verbally abused by her parents from birth, witnessing severe domestic violence and substance abuse, including Ice.

Lacey-Jane’s Story

Neglected and scared, four-and-a-half year old Lacey-Jane began running away from prep school.

Thomas’ Story

At three years old Thomas could barely walk or speak, and his body was covered in scratches.



If you have any questions or would like to access our free counselling and support, please call us directly to discuss or make an appointment.

Completed referral forms can be accessed from the services section on our website and email to or call 1300 228 000

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Referral Services

If you have any questions or would like to access our free counselling and support, please call us directly to discuss or make an appointment.

Completed referral forms can be accessed from the services section on our website and email to or call 07 3850 3200

  • Drop files here or